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Contributory Negligence Rule

Virginia is a Contributory Negligence Rule state, meaning, if you’ve been in an accident and you’ve contributed to causing the accident, even 1%, you can be found liable for the accident and your claim becomes moot.

For example, Ally crosses GW Parkway without looking both ways, stupidly trusting that no one would dare hit a pedestrian. Tom is driving home, messing with the music, texting Gale, playing with the temperature controls, and fixing his mirror, basically driving as negligently as possible. He hits Ally and she takes him to court.

The problem? The entire case is thrown out because the accident would not have happened had Ally not acted carelessly. It doesn’t matter that Tom was behaving negligently, because there is no proof that the accident would have happened without Ally’s poor decision. Ally contributed to her injuries and will pay the price for them.

This is what happens in a “Pure” Contributory Negligence state, which only applies to Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. In all the other 46 states the plaintiff’s recovery is simply diminished by the extent to which he or she contributed to the harm, also known as comparative negligence.

Defense attorneys are constantly trying to catch plaintiffs in the act of contributing to their accidents. What may seem benign to you, “I changed the radio station right before she rear-ended me,” might be all a defense attorney needs to poke holes into your liability. Defense attorneys are trying to prove that the plaintiff acted recklessly, and was negligent in protecting their own safety.

 

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR INSTRUCTION. MERELY AN INFORMATIVE POST.

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